Did you make it outside this past weekend? We hope so. There was a small window of opportunity on Saturday: the sun was out, there was no precipitation and the roads and sidewalks were largely dry and clear.
Some of us had been chomping at the bit to get outside and walk or even jog. We needed to be in the air, in the light. Indeed, we Michiganders suffer from a sunlight deficit during the long winter months. For some, this light deprivation is an annoyance or even a downer. But for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this time of year brings on a specific form of depression with its own symptoms and its own treatment.
SAD has similar symptoms from other forms of depression, including:
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Lack of interest in activities that typically bring you joy
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or
- Sleeping and napping far more than usual
- Social withdrawal or seclusion
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others (If this symptom occurs, seek help immediately.)
- Consult your health care team to determine the possible physical causes of your suffering.
- Certain medications can alleviate the symptoms of SAD, including classic anti-depressants. In addition, melatonin can be helpful in regulating sleep.
- Talk therapy is extremely beneficial.
- Stay busy through your work, through volunteer opportunities and by following through on your family responsibilities.
- Take advantage of any occasion for natural light. Be sure you are awake during the day and get outside, even if it’s cold, for an invigorating walk or even as a passenger in a car.
- Consider purchasing special light boxes that are used to treat SAD. Light therapy involves sitting by the light box which mimics sunlight and can “reset” your biological feelings of light deprivation.
- Appropriate sleep is critical. Do not allow yourself to be sleep-deprived. On the other hand, you must pull yourself out of bed and avoid over-sleeping.
- Take care of your body with healthy, nutritious food and regular exercise. Depressed people derive great benefit from vigorous cardiovascular exercise, where endorphins are produced.
- Avoid self-medicating through drugs or alcohol.
The good news for all of us is that the days are slowly getting longer and the sunlight will return!